Am I Normal?

No, not me — I know I’m not normal! I’m talking about the program “Am I Normal” which aired on BBC2 last night. I managed to catch about the last two thirds of it. This is a brief synopsis of the programme:

Dr Tanya Byron explores what some consider the fine line between religious devotion and psychiatric disorder. She sees what happens when rational scientists try to analyse religious phenomena like Speaking in Tongues and Hearing Voices. And she considers the beliefs of faith healers who claim miracles happen, and those who believe they can cast out the malevolent spirits of the dead from within the living. (Source)

Now, although I didn’t see the entire programme, it did annoy me somewhat. The problem with these shows is the assumed atheism. The whole feeling I got from the show was, “let’s investigate these nutcases who call themselves Christians and show how unscientific and ridiculous it all is.” It was quite clear that the woman presenting the programme was highly skeptical of religion, and it came across.

The problem with these programmes, though, is not so much that they pick on Christianity – it’s more that they don’t present anyone making a good case for it. In what I saw of “Am I Normal” last night, they had a few examples of people talking about their experiences – but not one of them made anything like a case for why belief is rational. So, in other words, if someone was watching who was curious about Christianity, they’d probably be left with the feeling that we’re all a bunch of idiots with absolutely no rational grounds for belief whatsoever.

I feel particularly strong about this because of the talk we went to on Sunday night about the evidence for Jesus!


Ah well, if people want to find out about what Christianity actually is, there are plenty of options: Christianity Explored, for one.

The saddest part of the programme for me was the people hearing voices in their heads. She spoke to one who seemed to have a demonic voice in his head – he had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. What saddened me was that he probably could have had help if he’d gone to a Christian counsellor. Sometimes problems of this nature are not purely mental – I believe there is a spiritual realm as well. I wish I could find a quote about this, it’s in one of my books, I might try and dig it out later!

Anyway, I think that’s enough ranting for now.

2 thoughts on “Am I Normal?

  1. Yes. I did see the whole programme and there were false dichotomies and straw men from the beginning, such as the opening statement which opposed being logical and rational against having faith, which is an irritating and ancient cheapshot.
    Nevertheless, Tanya did her bit in debunking the monstrous travesty that is Benny Hinn Ministries, so we’re grateful for that. I think the most interesting bit was the analysis of the guy speaking in tongues.
    Surely if these are heavenly languages, there wouldn’t be such verbally repetitious patterns? I always notice that people who speak in tongues (audibly) seem to use the percussive syllables ‘’ and that the ‘language’ is meandering and unstructured. What is the difference in SOUND between latter day speaking in tongues and gibberish?
    I am not a strict cessationist, but I believe that the Acts 2/1 Corinthians gift was that of languages, not of repetitive syllables which are somewhat less wonderous than English.

  2. Thanks for your comments Neil. I did actually agree with a few bits of the programme – as you mentioned, their assessment of Benny Hinn was quite accurate!

    I’m not sure about speaking in tongues – I don’t want to put any limit on the holy spirit (perhaps those verbally repetitious patterns could mean something?) – but at the same time I’m always a bit skeptical of tongues like that which seem to be able to be switched on and off at will.

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